|Hanoi Horse Club is located in Hoai Duc district on the outskirt of Hanoi. (Photo: VOV)
The Hanoi Horse Club is a sprawling haven that stretches over 3 hectares, and it's a breath of fresh air in every sense. As you step onto the grounds, you'll be greeted by the gentle rustle of leaves, a chorus of birdsong, the scent of earth and greenery, the soothing sounds of horses prancing, and the joyful laughter of riders having the time of their lives.
Nguyen Thi Hoa Hop, the founder of the Hanoi Horse Club, said, "When I was a kid, I'd sit in front of the TV, watching old movies where I'd see young girls gracefully riding horses, and I'd think, "Wow, that's beautiful." And you know what? Dreams really do come true. I've now got my own horse club, home to 30 magnificent horses, each of them is a different breed, and most have come here all the way from Europe."
Hop is among many with great passion for horse riding. Back in the early 1930s, France introduced Vietnam to the enchanting world of horse racing by opening the Phu Tho Racecourse in Ho Chi Minh city. Jump to 1942, horse riding and racing became the chic pastime of the royal family, nobles, and high-ranking mandarins during the reign of King Bao Dai.
When the Phu Tho Racecourse eventually closed its gates, Hop and her husband, an amateur circus artist, embarked on an adventure. They hightailed it to Ho Chi Minh city bought some horses, and started living their dream. Later they returned to Hanoi and in 2012 the Hanoi Horse Club was born.
Nguyen Thi Hoa Hop is one of the first women to train professional horse riding in Vietnam (Photo: Hanoi Horse Club)
Hop said, "Initially, our club attracted mainly foreigners, but it soon gained popularity among the Vietnamese. Our students are anywhere from 5 to 60 years old. We offer one-on-one horse riding and racing lessons with expert instructors and provide horses for picnics and fashion events."
Keeping the barn spick and span is a big deal here, mainly because the horses are fancy foreign breeds. They're not up for long exercise sessions, and they're pretty picky eaters. And with the hot, humid weather in Hanoi, the horses are prone to illness. In the training area, a roof and a nice water spray system helps riders and horses stay cool in the heat.
With an unwavering passion for horse riding, 17-year-old Dang Gia Linh has been in the saddle for five years, and her dedication and focus on her beloved horse are inspiring. Whether she's in the stables or out in the open, you can bet her heart and soul are intertwined with her equestrian companion.
She said that many people believe riding a horse is a piece of cake – you hop on and off you go. But here's the thing: horses aren't machines; they're living, breathing creatures with their own complex emotions that we can't entirely fathom or manage. "At first, my horse didn't pay me much mind, and I took a few falls and some pretty painful kicks. It wasn't the horse being mean. I just didn't quite get what he was all about yet," Linh said.
Linh said she was getting acquainted with the fact that horses are in a world of their own, and it takes time and effort to truly connect with them.
|Nguyen Quynh Trang works at Hanoi Horse Club as a professional trainer.(Photo: Hanoi Horse Club)
According to experienced horse rider Nguyen Quynh Trang, when it comes to that very first horse riding lesson, one should forget about skills and techniques for a moment. The first lesson is all about establishing a connection, about making friends with your four-legged partner.
Trang said, "If you're new to the world of horses, you don't have to sweat the riding techniques just yet. Start by letting the horse get to know you. Allow it to sniff you, feel your presence, and then give its neck a gentle pat. Give it a little rub and a scratch to build that bond and make friends with this amazing creature. Once you've got that connection down, then you can dive into the art of balancing on horseback."
|Hanoi Horse Club offers horses for fashion events. (Photo: Hanoi Horse Club)
According to horse riding trainers, in that initial encounter, you learn to approach the horse gently, to bond through trust and respect. It's a remarkable journey in which the rider begins to decipher the horse’s language, its likes and dislikes. You’re not just learning to ride; you’re embarking on a beautiful friendship, built on patience and understanding. This lesson sets the foundation for an incredible partnership between rider and horse, according to Mai Thi Hoa Thao, another experienced rider who has been teaching at Hanoi Horse Club for nearly two years.
Thao said, "Horses are surprisingly similar to us in many ways. They're intelligent creatures, and how you treat them determines how they treat you in return. I always tell my students about the importance of timing when it comes to rewards and corrections. For instance, if the horse gets a bit feisty, you can assert yourself by making it spin or using a light whip. But as soon as the horse calms down and regains its composure, it's crucial to shower it with praise, like a gentle neck rub."
Horses at the Hanoi Horse Club are given a name that reflects their unique personality. You'll meet equine friends with names like "Warm," "Happy," or "Prince." They may not understand human words, but they're quite tuned in to the tone of voice. A soft, low "ah" can communicate a lot to a clever horse. And when a rider wants his equine friend to get moving, a click of the tongue, done quickly or slowly, can help you adjust the speed, almost like speaking their language.
|VOV reporter Phuong Khanh takes photo with the most favorite horse of the club. (Photo: VOV)
Megumi Ishikawa and her daughter have been regular visitors to the Hanoi Horse Club every week since last August. Initially, like many, Megumi believed horses were all about technique and skill, that they had no feelings. But something unexpected began to dawn on Megumi during her visits.
Megumi said, "Before learning horse riding, I really didn’t know this sport was so tiring. It requires me to have a lot of energy. And we also have to build a strong connection between the horse and the human. At the beginning of the lesson, we had to walk the horse two or three rounds. Then I tried to talk to the horse in Japanese, like “How are you doing”, and somehow the horse answered me."
Megumi said she chose horse riding because her daughter really loves horses. And it seems both are finding joy in this pastime.
She added, "For my daughter, horse riding now is the favorite, most enjoyable activity in her life. We started learning horse riding at the same time, but my daughter’s skill is much greater than mine. My daughter is not very active or sociable and has difficulties in communication. But the staff supports her a lot and she is opening little by little and gradually becoming more confident than before."
|The youngest learner is five years old. (Photo: Hanoi Horse Club)
The Hanoi Horse Club offers horse riding programs tailored for children with conditions like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, and cerebral palsy. It offers a unique and holistic approach to therapy and personal development. In these programs, the horse becomes a partner in the therapeutic process, fostering a sense of trust and empathy that can be transformative for children facing these challenges.
Nguyen Thi Hien frequently brings her son, who has ADHD, to the club because she notices the joy and bright smiles that light up his face when he's in the saddle.
She said, "Children with challenging conditions, like my son, can often feel restricted at home, and it's important to offer them opportunities to explore their interests. Since morning, my son has been eager to go horseback riding. Initially, he was a bit anxious, but over time he fell in love with it. Horse riding has become a fantastic way for him to relieve stress, and he's even formed a special bond with a horse named Pu Run."
|Friendship is built between riders and horses. (Photo: Hanoi Horse Club)
And so, as the sun dips below the horizon and golden rays paint the Hanoi Horse Club in warm hues, you can't help but smile. The sound of hooves, laughter, and the soft nickers of horses fill the air. This place, where the young gather, where friendships are forged, and where the spirit of adventure and harmony with nature thrives, is a gem in Hanoi.